Open for business and ready to run away

Hooray, hooray. Everything is open; all is well with the world. I can go back to doing everything the way I did before the pandemic forced us all to stay at home.

I guess that’s not entirely true. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s not even mostly true. All I know for sure is that it’s safer to come out now than it has been in the past. Rules may vary from county to county, state to state, but here in my version of Wisconsin, I’m seeing different precautions in different restaurants, and I’m not sure life is going to get any less complicated any time soon.

Last Tuesday, my sister came up from Lake Geneva to take me out to dinner for my birthday. That’s her story, though I strongly suspect it was also to escape the throngs of unmasked masses that had descended upon her hometown from the recently unquarantined state of Illinois. There’s a definite love/hate relationship in that town with the people of Illinois.

The restaurant we went to was in Weston, and it’s a small restaurant to begin with. So it was reassuring to see they had blocked off several tables in order to provide some semblance of social distancing.

The masked and gloved waitress let us pick our own table and promptly had us download the menu app on to our phones. That’s certainly better for the environment than the one-use paper menus so many places are using. The waitress was friendly and helpful without being overbearing. It was a surreal, but great experience, highlighted by the great food and a magnificent mango martini — life is good.

Fast forward to Saturday night in Eau Claire at the group home my friend owns and operates and currently employs me on weekends. We made reservations with a popular steakhouse in Chippewa Falls to celebrate the miracle of me celebrating another 39th birthday.

We arrived with our masks on, the only ones in the entire restaurant who chose to engage in this simple ritual. We were greeted by an enthusiastic hostess flapping around paper menus and constantly chattering as she delivered us to our table well within the social distance approved parameters, until she seated newcomers at adjacent tables.

Then came the water lady who made sure we never had less than a sip out of our water glasses at any given time. Her technique was to hover over us each time she refreshed a glass.

The main waitress was perky, bubbly, effervescently friendly and every time she barged back to our table, I found myself leaning backwards as counterpart to her lean-in approach, which would have violated my personal space even in pre-COVID-19 times.

My friend and I questioned the wisdom of our coming to this restaurant. The food was delicious but the service was a bit much for people like us who spend the day washing hands, wearing masks and wiping up surfaces to keep the fragile population we serve safe from the rest of the world.

I’m glad businesses are starting to get back to work. But I need to keep in mind that some places will appeal to my comfort level, while others will send me running to the hills for an extended stay.

Miriam Nelson is the news editor of the Wittenberg Enterprise and Birnamwood News. Readers can contact her at